It’s known and accepted that, in the normal course of events, sometimes kids will get hurt. A skinned elbow, a turned ankle, a finger “boo-boo”—they are all as common as summer thunderstorms in Indiana. The vast majority of the time, childhood injuries are no one’s fault. When kids play, eventually someone will turn up with a cut or a bruise or a bloody nose.
But injuries that make you question exactly what happened while your child was in the care of another adult are another matter. Suppose you were the parent of an 8-month-old child, and your infant sustained a broken leg while being cared for by a Terre Haute day care provider. Would you not wonder what happened? Would you not want an explanation?
In this case, according to information filed in court, the injury happened in September, 2014, and the day care owner both failed to seek medical care for the child’s leg and also failed to inform the parents about what happened when they came to get their child. Because of that, a level-6 felony charge of neglect was brought against the owner.
Upsetting Facts and Numbers
The number one cause of death in all children, not only the ones in day care, among those aged one to 18 is unintentional injury. However, beyond that, it is difficult to know what the nationwide numbers for injuries and fatalities at day care centers are, as there appears to be no national tracking of the statistics. We do know that, in Indiana from 2009 through early March 2014, 31 children died in day care situations. Unlicensed providers (note that some day care providers in Indiana can operate legally even though not formally licensed) were responsible for 21 of those 31 deaths. But get this: 16 of the 21 deaths were in illegal child care situations, with providers operating completely outside the law.
In Indiana, hundreds of day cares in homes and churches are mostly beyond the reach of the state’s oversight. While many times these places provide good care, lapses do occur. A 22-month-old boy died in 2012 at one such place. He had wandered off from caregivers who allegedly forgot about him for more than an hour. He was found floating in a baptismal pool.
Things Gone Wrong
Of course, most day care providers are good people who do their best for our children. And, even at the most watchful places, injuries can occur. But if you think there’s more to the story than just the normal cut or scrape during playtime, here are some things to consider.
Children can sustain injuries because they:
- Don’t have the experience to know what is safe.
- Try to imitate an older child’s actions and don’t have the physical ability to do so safely.
- Have access to toxins and hazards (pools, electrical, dangerously hot water or items) that they shouldn’t.
- Don’t have the proper supervision, or their environment lacks safety devices.
A case of negligence can sometimes be brought because of reasons 3 and 4.
When a Suit Seems Appropriate: Negligence and Intentional Tort
Negligence and intentional tort are the two main legal reasons that lawsuits are generally brought against day care providers.
Legally speaking, a day care provider must offer reasonable care and conduct. If they don’t provide your child with reasonable care, negligence can be cited as the reason for a lawsuit. Some common reasons to cite negligence include failure to provide a safe environment or proper supervision (points 3 and 4 above), or violating a known statute, such as having illegal drugs on the premises that harm the child.
When it comes to intentional tort (deliberate conduct that causes injury), you may have an option to bring a civil case as well as a criminal one. An intentional tort case can be brought when there is emotional distress but little physical evidence, such as in cases of extreme threats made to the child (for example, threats to kill their parents) after inappropriate sexual touching.
Factors Taken Under Consideration When Bringing a Suit
If you believe your child has been neglected or deliberately harmed, you might want to pursue legal action. To bring a suit successfully, a number of aspects concerning the day care provider must be evaluated. Matters that are frequently considered include:
- The damages (the child’s injuries), and the situation in which they occurred. Not every injury has sufficient grounds of either negligence or intentional harm. Negligence or intentional harm must be provable.
- The licensure of the center. Unlicensed day care centers or providers are more often implicated in injuries and deaths than licensed ones. Unlicensed centers often have fewer and less accurate records than licensed providers.
- Liability insurance. While a provider is not required to have liability insurance, if they do not, it will usually be more difficult to collect on a judgment.
Protecting Your Child: Questions to Ask Day Care Providers
Positive changes in day care regulations do appear to be coming. However, it is always a good idea to perform your own due diligence. Here are some suggested questions to ask when you are trying to decide which day care facility to choose for your child:
- Is the facility licensed? Ask to see the certificate if you have any doubts.
- How long has the facility been operating?
- Have all the staff undergone infant and child CPR training?
- How many children is each caretaker responsible for?
- Has any child ever been seriously injured or died at the facility?
- What are the disciplinary procedures, and how will you be informed when your child misbehaves?
- What are the procedures for care and for informing you should your child become injured?
- How will they contact you in case of emergency?
- Can you drop in with no notice? If you sense reluctance, see if you can find out why.
Finally, it is suggested you spend some time observing the children in the day care, and watch how they interact with their providers. Do they seem content, playing happily? Or are they overly quiet, appearing afraid or nervous? How do the children interact with the caregivers? A period of observation will also allow you to verify the general level of hygiene and cleanliness procedures.
Successfully litigating personal injury cases in Indiana since 1981.
Protecting our children should be our No. 1 priority. And when children are injured, we need to investigate the causes and make things right. If your child has suffered injury at a day care location because of negligence or suspected maliciousness on the part of the provider, or sustained injury due to another child at the day care location, speak with an experienced Indiana personal injury lawyer like Mike Stephenson.
If you think you might have a case, keep in mind that there is a statute of limitations – or a deadline – for filing personal injury claims, so it is unwise to delay. You deserve compensation for injury, so don’t lose the opportunity to obtain the money you need to put your family’s life back on track and to make their future financially secure. Call Mike Stephenson at 1-855-206-2555 or contact us for immediate help. McNeely Stephenson. Trusted advisors. Proven advocates.